The Use of Mobile Phones in School

By Shawn McClain

The Pew Internet and American Life Project's 2009 survey found that 77 percent of high school students who own mobile phones bring them to school every day. With the sheer amount of mobile phones that are present in school every day, administrators have to struggle between allowing students to use mobile phones and containing the potential distraction that they present.

School Policy and its Effects

School mobile phones permissions can generally fall into one of three categories: schools that allow students to have mobile phones at all times, schools that allow students to have mobile phones except while in class and schools where students are not allowed to have mobile phones while on school property. While schools that have banned mobile phones have twice the number of students who report never bringing their phones to school, 65 percent of students at those schools still report bringing their phone to school everyday. Many students also report a disparity in the enforcement of the policies, as teachers or administrators will present a bias and allow certain students to use a mobile phone during class time, while others cannot.

Class Distractions

It is easy to believe that students with mobile phones at school are likely to be using them at times when they shouldn't, like during class. A 2009 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found just how prevalent mobile phone use in the classroom is. Two-thirds of teens who take their phone to school reported that they have sent a text message during class. Almost one-third of teens who take their phones to school send text messages during class every day. Very few teens, just 4 percent, report making or receiving a call during class, most likely due to the difficulty of making a call without being noticed.

Cheating with Mobile Phones

Cheating is an inherent problem with Internet-enabled mobile phones in the classroom. Test administrators are forced to be extra vigilant because of the ease in which students can go online and find answers. Students can also use text messages to work together to solve problems or to give answers to other students. There are also cases of students taking pictures of their textbooks then retrieving the image during a test.

Mobile Phone Issues During Emergencies

If an emergency happens at school, students with mobile phones are a mixed blessing. The ability of students to contact their parents can relieve some of the pressure on school administrators. However, hundreds or thousands of students trying to make a call at the same time can easily overload the cellular system and prevent important administration calls from going through. Mobile phones also make it difficult for school administrators to control rumors from spreading. Text messages between students during a crisis can create more anxiety and panic than any actual threat that may be present.

Mobile Phone Use in Committing Crimes

One reason for school administrators to ban mobile phones from school is their use in gang and drug activity, although these policies have done little in curbing mobile phone use in school. Students have also used mobile phones to call in threats to have school suspended or dismissed. These types of threats can be difficult for law enforcement to trace since they are often done with pre-paid mobile phones.